Athens, Heraklion, and Rhodes were among the Top 100 City Destinations Ranking in the world in 2014, Euromonitor reports.
Athens occupied the 51st position, having recorded a 29.4% increase in international tourist arrivals compared to 2013. Heraklion ranked 72th positionin 2014 increased by 5.4% compared to 2013, and Rhodes was 95th, with an 8.2%increase compared to the previous year.
According to Euromonitor, arrivals continued to grow in global urban centres in 2014, illustrating the continued economic importance of tourism to the world’s cities.
CHINESE TRAVELLERS LOOK CLOSE TO HOME
Asia remained the dominant region for city tourism, with over one third of the top 100 cities being located in Asia in 2014. The growing number of outbound Chinese travellers hugely influenced the rankings, with Hong Kong, Macau and Taipei benefiting greatly from these visitors. Improved flight connections from China and relaxed or no visa restrictions for Chinese visitors are assisting in the march up the rankings of these Asian destinations. A key aspect for city destinations is understanding the specific needs of Chinese travellers, who are gradually becoming more adventurous and moving slowly towards more individual travel rather than relying on traditional tour groups.
However, China is not only an important outbound market. China has seven cities in the top 100 ranking, which is the same amount as the US. All cities registered healthy growth, with the exception of Beijing, which has been hampered by increasing reports of air quality. The high number of cities, however, illustrates how China is not only the largest outbound market, but is also gaining global dominance as a destination for business and leisure tourism.
Indian cities experienced strong growth in arrivals in 2014, with the combined efforts of a longstanding promotion campaign (Incredible India) and a weak rupee aiding visits to the country as a whole. Delhi and Mumbai are the most popular destinations, with each seeing over 4.5 million visitors in 2014. Additionally, the introduction of a new visa-on-arrival process for 46 countries, including the US, Germany and Australia, has helped encourage visitors to India.
Vietnam saw three of its cities in the top 100 for the first time: Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Halong. The Vietnamese Government has been extremely proactive in promoting the country through international media outlets such as CNN and BBC, with successful results. Combined with increased flight connectivity, city arrivals have performed strongly.
EUROPE IN TURBULENT WATERS
European cities remain classic, must-see destinations the world over, with both London and Paris in the top 10, in second and fifth positions respectively. London moved up, with a 4% rise in inbound arrivals, as Bangkok dropped down due to political unrest in Thailand and a decline in Russian arrivals. However, levels of growth in European cities are nowhere near the increases seen in other Asian city destinations, and within the top 100 itself, less than one third of the cities are now in Europe. Many older cities, such as Venice, Barcelona, Berlin, and Amsterdam, are suffering from excessive tourism, with overcrowding at the top sites and attractions. Some are promoting tourism outside mainstream areas, either inside or outside the boundaries of the core city, in an attempt to distribute visitors and their wealth more evenly.
In 2015, European city tourism numbers are expected to be impacted by the migrant crisis, but the extent to which this will happen is difficult to determine as of yet, with many governments denying that tourist numbers will have been affected. However, with rail stations in cities such as Budapest blocked for a time in the summer of 2015, and border checks re-established in a number of Schengen countries, it is extremely likely that there will be a decline in arrivals to some European cities once the full year data for 2015 is made available.
RIO AND CANCUN RISE ABOVE OTHERS IN THE AMERICAS
Miami was the most dynamic destination in the US in 2014, seeing a 15.7% increase in visitors to reach 7.2 million. Latin Americans made up over half of international visitors to the city, but much of the increase was seen from travellers stopping over in the city on the way to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. In Brazil, Rio de Janeiro benefitted most from the World Cup, with an increase of 46.6% in inbound arrivals, moving the city up 12 places in the ranking to 80. With the Olympics coming to Rio in summer 2016, the city is again expected to see record growth, although host cities of mega events often experience negative sentiments from residents alongside visitor displacement, with tourists avoiding the destination for the duration of the event, as was seen during the London Olympics in 2012.
Cancun in Mexico registered an incredible rise of 42.1%, in 2014 welcoming over four million visitors. With this number, it beat the Mexican capital, Mexico City, in terms of arrivals for the first time. 2014 was a record year for Mexican tourism, with strong growth in arrivals from the US and Canada due to holidaymakers seeking to escape poor weather at home, good exchange rates, and effective promotions by Mexican tourism organisations.
Havana in Cuba is a city to watch over the coming years. The city is poised to be a Latin American success story in 2015 and 2016, as visitor numbers are predicted to rise as the improved political relationship with the US has encouraged tourism, and international flight connections have expanded and are expected to continue increasing over the coming years.
SECURITY AND SAFETY A GROWING CONCERN
Concerns about the safety and security of visitors is a growing global issue and will most likely be highlighted in full-year 2015 arrivals data, when the impacts of terrorist attacks in Bangkok, Paris, Istanbul, Sousse and Sharm el Sheikh are felt. Already, figures for Paris have shown a decline during the last two months of 2015, but the French capital city is likely to remain high in the rankings as visitors return in 2016. However, destinations in Tunisia and Egypt are likely to suffer more as tourists remain uneasy about visiting, with Sharm el Sheikh seeing a continued flight ban from countries like the UK and Russia. Major UK tour operator Thomas Cook has announced the extension of its flight ban until at least March 2016.
Despite these developments, it is clear that the appetite for travel is growing on a global scale. The increasingly positive performance of many economies in North America and Europe, and improving ties with countries like Cuba and Iran (which will benefit Havana and Tehran particularly), is expected to ensure that continued growth of city arrivals will be registered in the coming years.
TOP 10 CITY DESTINATIONS RANKING
% INCREASE 2013/2104
||Hong Kong, China
||New York City